From having not much of a dream to finding a purpose in life, Zi Xian’s story is set to inspire and encourage those who are uncertain about pursuing their dreams. The 25-year-old Kuala Lumpur-born lad who has been living in Petaling Jaya for more than 15 years reveals his journey of getting to where he is now as a leather craftsman and co-founder of Malaysian leather goods brand TYDE.
Growing up in the ‘90s, he recalls a simple childhood where he always loved to doodle around and played outdoors with other kids in the neighbourhood. Never one to take studying seriously even up till secondary school, he lived aimlessly and never thought to have any ambition. After SPM, he worked as a toy promoter in a shopping mall. One day, he was approached by a father who asked him to explain how the toy works to his children. Zi Xian, who couldn’t speak English at the time, was badly reprimanded by the man as well as his manager. That was when his confidence and self-esteem hit an all-time low.
After the incident, he came to realise the importance of education. He expressed to his parents his intent to continue his studies and to improve on his English language especially. Coincidentally, his mother happened upon an ad by The One Academy in the newspaper. She then made a call for an appointment and brought him there. Initially, he did not know anything about the art and design academy, and thought it was a place that taught English.
At first, he faced ridicule by friends and people around him who mocked him for studying art and design. Some of the negative remarks were that he would find it difficult to earn a living in an industry that is stereotyped as unprofitable. Despite everything, he was thankful and appreciative of his parents who fully supported and provided for him during his time at The One Academy. He pushed through and came out of it simply by being true to himself and keeping in mind his parents’ words, “to become the best player, just do it with all your heart.”
He recalled memorable moments of learning in a city campus environment and being guided by helpful and dedicated lecturers. His favourite subjects were still-life and watercolour drawing classes. It gave him a whole new view of how interesting art and design can be. The Intensive English Programme (IEP) helped him from having zero basic in English to being communicable, while the Certificate in Communication Design (CCD) course was the foundation that developed and solidified his creative mind before stepping into diploma.
“In my final year of Diploma in Advertising & Graphic Design, there was a subject called ‘Publication’ where we were tasked to design a piece of publication as creative as possible. I did some research about what materials to experiment with and that was how I first got to know about leather. I found it very interesting and decided to further explore leathercraft as my hobby,” explained Zi Xian.
Taking his hobby and newfound passion to the next level, Zi Xian co-founded TYDE with his business partner, Joyce Aw, offering a bespoke service of designing custom-made products catering to clients’ preferences. Among some of their clients are Atap.co, Maserati, Lexus, OPPO, Tudor, Gamuda Land, The Balvenie and Samsung. They are in the midst of opening their first physical retail store as well as leathercraft academy. The goal they have in mind is to elevate the local handcraft scene and raise its value.
Citing his father as his source of inspiration, he was told that life is not just about chasing fortune and working blindly; but rather about doing the things that you love, being responsible for the path you chose and moving at your own pace. “Concentrating on perfecting just one thing in a lifetime is enough” is his life motto by a fellow The One Academy alumnus.